IWL 2019: Manisha Kalyan, Gokulam Kerala's go-to goal-getter

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Manisha Kalyan IWL Gokulam Kerala
AIFF Media
17-year-old Manisha has been a revelation for Gokulam Kerala in the Indian Women's League...

Manisha is already the engine of Gokulam Kerala's attack in the Indian Women's League (IWL) and at 17 years old, it is evident from her performances that there is a highly successful football career waiting for her if she keeps at it the same way. 

But then there is the question of whether football has evolved into a cash-earning job in India for women. Clubs in IWL have not had it easy so far and women's football in India is yet to really pick up steam despite the obvious talent available.

"If a girl has a passion for football and is ready to work hard she can make a career out of the sport," a confident Manisha answered Goal amidst her 2019 IWL preparations. Gokulam Kerala, who are the only club from India's professional leagues to participate in the tournament, have sealed a spot in the semi-final and are favourites to go all the way this year. 

Manisha Kalyan IWL Gokulam Kerala

Hailing from Hoshiarpur district in Punjab, Manisha is already being touted as one to look out for. She made her national team debut against Hong Kong in January 2019 and was the youngest member of the team at the 2019 SAFF Championship which was held in Nepal.

Her physical strength and finishing abilities make her an excellent choice to lead the line and it isn't a surprise that Manisha switched from athletics to football during her high school days. 

"When I was in the seventh standard I was into athletics. Then after a year, I used to watch the boys in my locality play football and I developed an interest in the game. Then one day the coach of our district side asked me if I want to play football and I said yes. I then got selected in the district side," just like that, according to Manisha. The talent was spotted quickly. 

Manisha Kalyan IWL Gokulam Kerala

"I played for the national side at the age of 17. I was extremely proud. The experience was also good, playing with the senior side. The competition becomes tough as you go on playing. So I got to know my weaknesses and I started working on them," the girl from Punjab said.

Manisha, who gets inspired by watching Lionel Messi score goals for fun, has four goals in as many matches for Gokulam in the IWL this year. Her tally includes a terrific hat-trick against defending champions Rising Student's Club in the opener and a match-winning 71st-minute strike in the second match, against FC Alakhpura. She missed the third fixture due to a suspension but returned to boss the field as Gokulam secured their fourth win in a row. 

Manisha Kalyan IWL Gokulam Kerala

"We are working very hard both on and off the field only to win the championship. We have to win the title by hook or crook. All the teams taking part in IWL are very good and whoever we face in the semifinal, I am ready."

Manisha was on the first XI as Gokulam won their final group game and finished atop Group 1 on Wednesday. Gokulam Kerala will face either Manipur Police Sports Club or Sethu FC in the semi-final on May 20.